Center for Strategic Communication

In policy circles as well as among both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian activists, the question of whether, how and why the Palestinian-Israeli conflict plays a role in al-Qaida’s global jihad is hotly debated. The reason for this is clear: pro-Israeli politicians and activists obviously don’t want to conclude that American support for Israel, for example, causes people to become jihadis fighting the US, while people with a more pro-Palestinian point of view are often keen to point out that there is a correlation between the two, presumably hoping for a more even-handed American approach towards the conflict.


Despite the fact that this question has often come up in debates, suprisingly little research has been done on the connection between transnational or global jihad on the one hand and the Palestinian question on the other. To address this issue, Jihadica alumnus Thomas Hegghammer and yours truly have edited a special issue of the journal Die Welt des Islams about this subject. It includes several articles as well as extra documents that will surely be of interest to Jihadica readers.

In the first article, Thomas and I address the question of “The Palestine effect“: what role do Palestinians and the Palestinian question play among global jihadis? Are Palestinians overrepresented among al-Qaida members or not? What role have Palestinian played in the global jihadi movement since its beginning? How has the Palestinian question developed from one seemingly monopolised by Arab nationalists to a cause championed by global Islamists? Does Palestinian suffering serve as a recruitment tool for al-Qaida? You can read our answers here.

Palestinian Ideologues

The next four articles of our special issue are dedicated to one Palestinian jihad ideologue each. The first of these is written by Mark Sanagan, a PhD-candidate at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, on ‘Izz al-Din al-Qassam. Mark’s article (“Teacher, Preacher, Soldier, Martyr: Rethinking ‘Izz al-Din al-Qassam“) deals with al-Qassam’s Palestinian identity during his lifetime (he was killed in 1935 by the British) and his Palestinian legacy thereafter. Click here to read this fascinating article.

Thomas has written an article about the second ideologue dealt with in this issue, ‘Abdallah ‘Azzam. As many readers of Jihadica will know, Thomas has done extensive research on this man’s life, which becomes quite clear in this article, in which he shows that ‘Azzam is probably the most Palestinian of the ideologues dealt with in this special issue. We’ll have to wait for Thomas’ book on ‘Azzam for some time, but while waiting his article – which you can read here – is a good alternative.

As befits someone who’s written a book and many articles about him already, I dedicated my paper to Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s Palestinian identity. While I have often heard (at conferences, sometimes during field work and even in peer review reports) that al-Maqdisi’s Palestinianness is quite important to him, no serious research has been done on this issue so far and the people saying this don’t always seem to know what they’re talking about either. Luckily, this has changed with the publication of my article, which you can read here.

Finally, Petter Nesser of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) in Oslo, Norway, has authored an article on the Palestinian identity of a radical ideologue who’s been in the news a lot lately: Abu Qatada al-Filastini. Although this man’s name actually means “the Palestinian”, thus suggesting that he may be quite aware (and perhaps even proud) of his national identity, Petter comes to some interesting conclusions about Abu Qatada’s loyalties and how he feels about his Palestinian background. You can read the article here.

Documents and Active Citation

One of the added features of our special issue of Die Welt des Islams is that we also included several translated documents that are related to the subject. Thomas has selected three texts by ‘Azzam about the Palestinian question (“The Defence of Muslim Lands“, “Hamas” and “Memories of Palestine“), which you can read here, here and here. I have chosen two texts by al-Maqdisi: one about his ideas on jihad and another on his criticism of Hamas (read them here and here). Petter added an interview with Abu Qatada and an article describing the latter’s explanation of why a jihad should be waged (see the full texts here and here). All of these documents help explain how these ideologues feel about the Palestinian question.

Finally, all authors of this issue have decided to engage in what is referred to as “Active Citation“. As many readers will know, the links to jihadi documents often break because websites are taken down. To prevent the publications to which we refer in the footnotes from disappearing or becoming hard to find, we have uploaded them to our dropboxes and have provided direct links to these documents. This is not only a sign of academic transparency, but it also ensures that readers will continue to be able to read these documents, even if the websites from which they originally came disappear. You can find the direct links to “The Palestine Effect” here and here. The direct links to Mark’s article on al-Qassam can be accessed here, while Thomas provides his links here. The links to the sources used in my article can be found here and Petter gives his here.

What all of this adds up to is a fascinating special issue of Die Welt des Islams on a subject that should be of interest to a broad spectrum of specialists, academics and policy makers. Anyone interested in global jihad, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and/or Islamist ideology cannot afford to miss it.